Come my friends, ’tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Alfred, Lord Tennyson ‘Ulysses’
As human beings, in even the most difficult times, we have the power to offer each other encouragement. We have the capacity ‘to give someone the right to reveal what is in their heart’. That’s the definition of encouragement I created after fossicking around in its etymology.
A friend offered me that privilege as I talked about a current project. ‘Oh, Clare,’ she said, ‘I really want to encourage what you’re trying to do.’ Her words kept me buoyed during the week. They were echoed in a meeting with a peer where we mutually encourage each other to explore fresh fields of work. Receiving encouragement also motivated me to reach out with that gesture to people I encountered as well.
My friend and I were seated beside each other at our monthly poetry group. It’s a feast of encouragement. As well as a plate of food to share, each of us brings a poem that inspires us or grants us a glimpse of deeper meaning. On this night, we shared deep nourishment including words from Leonard Cohen, Rudyard Kipling, John Shaw Neilson, Hafiz and David Whyte. Two of their own poems were offered by members of the group, including a tribute to a deeply loved stepfather who had just passed away, spoken with beauty and grief. Hearing each other speak words that are clothed in feeling, wisdom and truth is something we all cherish.
As the poems intersperse our conversation, the spontaneous words we offer each other at the table, the ones we utter in the moment, move away from our busy, judging heads towards the realm of the heart. Our words become more meaningful. We listen more deeply. At least that’s how I perceive it. Rather than gossip, indignation, judgment or rush, we are able to take things more slowly, speak from greater truth, listen more gratefully, and offer each other glimpses of what stirs us deep within. The space is pregnant with possibility; the possibility of deep feeling—of experiencing grief, anger, or joy in their truest senses as motivation to explore what is needed in the world and in our lives. Curiosity and wonder linger in the ‘not knowing’ beyond quick definitions and hasty judgments. It takes courage and encouragement to dwell in that space.
Yet in this kind of space, our heartfelt longings and wonderings feel safe to emerge. When we create these spaces of encouragement for each other, we offer the world something newer than already thunk thoughts and tired reactions. We explore new ways to bring forth our particular gifts, to extend our ways of working in the world so that a deeper conversation, one with the earth itself and with all the tangible and intangible forces that interweave around us, may be active in what we offer to each other.